The Autistic Writer: A Life Worth Writing

“Write something worth reading, or live a life worth writing.”

Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have said this. Whether he actually did so, the sentiment seems wise. He of course could and did do both, but let’s face it, most of us are not Franklin.

I’m not saying my life has been worthless. It hasn’t been. And there may be aspects of it worth writing about. I’ve written non-fiction about aspects of my life before. And some aspects of my real life influence my fiction; any author could claim that truth.

As a writer on the Autism Spectrum, however, I must always keep in mind that what I may have found interesting about my life may not always translate into what readers may find interesting.


If I am being 100% honest, I have come to the conclusion over the years that compared to the lives of many people I know, I’ve not experienced much in the way of external adventure or misadventure that rises to the level of “readable.”

If you read my previous post in this series about characters, and about being internal, you already know where I am going with this; most people cannot get away with whole books of characters thinking, wondering, pondering. I have lived a life mostly of thinking, wondering, pondering. Even if the conclusions are extraordinary, in most fiction something should happen. The Autism in me in tempted to talk about thoughts all day.

In this regard my fiction has a small edge over my non-fiction. I can create any adventure or obstacle for a story I want. I can build plot around thoughts. Yet I have to make that choice. I have even written fantasy that upon a first draft is too much thought, not enough action. (And fantasy is probably the genre that fails most miserably without enough action for its characters.)

Forget characters for a moment. Even in memoir writing and other creative non-fiction, something should in general take place beyond even great thoughts. A fascinating experience in my head is for the most part not enough. My emotional struggles with, say, loneliness may be profound, but if I can’t present a story by which they are explored, is that writing or, to paraphrase Capote about Kerouac, is it just typing?

Perhaps, however, I’m wrong? Maybe my lived experiences in the real world would not be as boring to the reader as I fear they would be. I am judging by the sort of lives that even some of my non-writer friends have lived who nonetheless fascinate people with their tales. It doesn’t seem that my life can compare.

This may all be a matter of perspective. Deeper dives into some aspects of my life, greater explorations of the nature of same may indeed constitute a “life worth writing.” Or at least it may be more fertile ground for fiction ideas than I realize. Being on the Spectrum often entails misreading or missing social reactions. I can’t deny that tendency might apply to interpreting society’s interest in or esteem for people such as myself.

But it’s no sin either way, to me. If my life ends up being a mediocre story, I will nevertheless remain happy with if I write things worth reading.

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